Undergraduate students can benefit from practical experience designing technology systems in collaboration with students from other disciplines both inside and outside of engineering. This experience requires students to apply their developing disciplinary skills to projects that also require broader multidisciplinary concepts and approaches. This will expose participating students to systems engineering concepts and will help them succeed in the fast-paced, global and entrepreneurial market for graduate students and professionals in the 21st century.

A minor in Multidisciplinary Design requires students to exercise their acquired disciplinary expertise in the context of a significant multi-semester team design-build-test project. This project must be multidisciplinary and involve concepts and approaches from at least two other disciplines to be completed successfully. The projects closely follow the following elements or steps:

  1. problem definition based on qualitative and/or quantitative requirement
  2. generation of creative solution concepts,
  3. analysis of the quality of proposed concepts,
  4. selection and optimization of a final concept,
  5. evaluation of the final concept through the building and
  6.  testing of prototypes in realistic settings (or virtual models with models of the applicable environment), and iteration and/or detailed recommendation for improvement of the final concept based on the lessons learned from Steps 1 through 5.

These design projects are conducted during or after the student has taken a defined set of preparatory courses and ideally feature a meaningful connection with at least one discipline outside of engineering.

Intended Audience

While the minor would be open to all qualified students in LSA, it expected to be of interest primarily to students in Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Mathematics. The Multidisciplinary Design minor promotes a wide range of experiential, project-based opportunities that engage areas of broad interest, e.g., the environment, sustainability, social service, global health, space exploration, etc.


Students may join a program specialization that has been designed by a faculty member(s) around their particular interests. Students must apply to and be accepted by the faculty member managing the specialization. Specializations typically include a specified set of courses and projects. Students who complete a specialization will have it noted on their transcripts. There are currently two specializations: Global Health and Social Innovation.

Prerequisites to the Minor

None for the minor per se, although individual courses elected to meet the requirements of the minor may have course prerequisites.

Requirements for the Minor

At least 15 credits (at least two courses must be upper division courses) chosen in consultation with and approved by the department advisor, distributed as follows:

  1. Completion of at least 2 credits of introductory "Design, Build, Test" (DBT) experience. This provides students with a foundation in the experience of creating solutions for a specified problem.

    Approved examples include: appropriate sections of ENGR 100, AOSS 280, MECHENG 250, BIOLOGY 173, and MCDB 306; Other courses considered upon request.
  2. Completion of at least 3 credits of "cornerstone" coursework that serves to prepare the student in depth for his or her multi-semester project work.

    This serves to prepare the student in breadth for his or her multi-semester project work. The minor in Multidisciplinary Design is best served if the cornerstone experience meets the needs of the project and exceeds the nominal preparation associated with the student's major discipline. Therefore the student must identify a cornerstone course, outside the set of his or her required classes, which will serve to prepare the student for their specific project work.
    • This course is to be taken prior to completing the final 3 credits of project work and should be identified during the project scoping exercise (see item C below).
    • Specializations can require students to take a specific cornerstone class.
  3. Completion of at least 7 credits of multidisciplinary design project work. A "multidisciplinary design project" is operationally defined as a design project containing a significant engagement and integration of students, faculty, or course projects from three distinct disciplines. Ideally one of these disciplines is outside the College of Engineering. Students must be prepared for these projects to be extensive, often involving co-curricular (non-graded) and extra-curricular activities.
    • Ideally this project features consecutive semesters of in-depth work on the same design project.
    • These credits cannot all be taken in the same semester.
    • The project work can occur within departmental design courses (e.g., MECHENG 450 and EECS 430), independent study courses (e.g., MECHENG 490), or in the ENGR curriculum (e.g., ENGR 355, ENGR 455, and/or ENGR 450). Co-ops and research projects can be considered if they reflect the spirit of the program and are appropriately reflected in graded coursework.
    • Prior to or at the beginning of this multi-semester team project experience, the student must complete a thoughtful project scoping exercise that defines the project objectives, approach to completing the objectives, and how the student intends to contribute his or her expertise to the completion of the project. At this time, the student needs to identify courses he or she plans to take to complete the minor.
  4. Completion of at least 2 credits of formal leadership and/or mentorship activities within the Multidisciplinary Design program. This requirement is presently satisfied by independent study ENGR 456 typically supervised by the research faculty member who also supervises the 7 credits of design project work.

Completion of the minimum credit hours for each category A-D adds up to 14 credit hours; therefore the student needs at least one extra credit hour in one of the categories.


Transfer credit may not be used to satisfy the multidisciplinary design project course requirement (item C above) or the mentorship/leadership course requirement (item D above).


Students interested in this minor should contact the Multidisciplinary Design Program advisor for further information and counseling. The Advisory Committee of the Multidisciplinary Design Academic Minor Program is responsible for approving any variance in course requirements for a minor. Such variances are usually proposed by the student. 


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